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Poetry attempts the impossible: 

to articulate the inarticulable, express the inexpressable, describe the indescribable.

For me, it is a last resort and also a first impulse, 

produced when there is no other way to say something, and

when there is no other way that something should be said. 


The Finish Line

April 2013

Isaac Spared


Eyes too serious for a child.
Under anesthetic yet always awake,
haunted but almost haughty:
the stare of a survivor.
Trace the two thin lines trickling
from his eyes, delicate scars carved
in clay skin, cracking, soft. Look
closely, there, in bright epilepsy
at the base of the tree, in freshly
severed silver to its side, and you’ll
see ghosts.
The little ones buried beneath
layers upon layers of paint and
precious metal, paper-thin.
Why was it he who was chosen to live?
On a ladder six feet under
the ceiling, the executioner’s ax
(dripping paintbrush bristles) poised,
in that moment paused.
For the boy has his grandfather’s face,
artist’s eyes staring into eyes the same,
the unrelenting mercy of self-reflection,
the farthest out of reach. 

​October 2012, published May 2013

2nd prize in The Idiom's Ekphrasis Poetry Competition

Based on Bruce Herman's painting QU4RTETS No. 1 (Spring) 





We’re chopping onions for jambalaya at four o’clock

on one of those days where you can taste sunlight,

deep lung-drenching droughts of it, when

we hear –

two, no three explosions -  

orchestral bangs in perfect rhythm timed  

at the finish line 

25 miles from where we stand 

there is blood

bathing Boylston Street. 


And all we crave is story –

to know what can't be known,

to make sense of what has no sense,

to realize what is unreal - 

scraps of vision blurred

bouncing bright colors 

on a concrete street and then the 


and legs crumble, hands rushing

slowly to ears deafened by the silence and

ohmygodohmygodohmygod behind the camera -

over and over and over again. 


If this were another city, this too would be as

commonplace as cutting onions.


Today, 5810 miles away, the same

blood on Boylston Street

buries the back alleys of Baghdad. 

55 bodies, dead. 


In this day, we have become the same -

the same 

woman making dinner as bombs crack 

ceilings, screens, skulls, the same 

woman because no matter what has happened, 

we all still must eat. 

And so 


we pour measured rice into water beginning to boil

as 26 are wounded

we sprinkle parsley, saffron, salt, a dash of thyme

as 49 are wounded

we slice apples, crisp, swift cut of green and red

as 100 plus are wounded

we fill clean bowls to the full with

cucumbers, crisp,

a cloud of lettuce, moist, and

a jar of honeyed oil lined straight

on the fresh wiped table –

a perfect meal –


but 57 are dead in

Boston and Baghdad. 



September 2012 

You fit in the palm of

my hand, fine dust so light I fear

I will drop and lose you in the sand. 


We stand, a broken-backed black snake

beside the salty tide licking

at our stinging wounds,


and shielding eyes

from sweating sun, on

the Reverend’s count of

1 2 3 we let you go into the sea.


In your wake we try to celebrate –

pull out the champagne glasses,

roll up dress pant legs and slip


off black high heels, bury

Uncle Marv alive in a clean-

starched suit (he, Lazarus arising, I resent) 


a child-sized purple dress, too bright

for grief, strewn across the sand,

as Millie in a frilly bikini begs

me to go in the sea. 


She is too young to understand, I

too tired to make her try, but my swimsuit

scratches under my slip; I promised too soon.


Stripped half-naked, thrilled and

terrified we race to shatter

the icy glass – braver


Millie pulls me

straight in, slivers of shivers

sliced under sticky skin – gasp –

a gulp of salt, and you are inside me again.


Baby, oh my little baby, breathe

lungfuls of bittersweet brine

and cling to a string

of white, wake

melting into

the turn

of the













For the Ones I Love, Closer to Death

June 2011, published in The Idiom December 2011 

The first thing I see is red vermilion flowers.


and the slide projector whirs like the cicada’s lullaby.


It blinks, bleary, flickering light,

as a baby just waking,

steady now the click beneath my fingertip.



Every picture is summer awash in sunlight

blonde and daddy’s golden dimples,

bare leg bronzed and taut curls holding tight,

the frozen flash of a smile and pupils always shaded –



Now she shrinks lost in the high-backed chair,

cataracts ice cracked over lakes of frozen milk.

her breath whispers, haggard like crinkled pages,

the smell of aging ink pressed in the folds of her skin.



Only today I began to realize how close death is.


Breathing gently on the back of our necks,

brushing the edges of wakefulness,

crouching in the corners of our dreams –


in Granny’s whispered breath,

the folded pages of her eyelids


in threads of sugarcane woven

through my mother’s hair


in the shower as I circled my wrist with two fingers,

so thin it sometimes frightens me 


in the car as we pressed up against red brake lights,

warning us we are close 



and the slide projector whirs like the cicada’s lullaby.

it blinks, bleary, flickering light,

as a baby just waking,

steady now the click beneath my fingertip.


and the last thing I see is

red vermilion flowers.




Forsaken (Christ in the Tomb) 

May 2011, published in The Idiom May 2012 

Such a painting could make a man lose his faith

Dostoyevsky once said 

as he stood on a chair in the Basel Kunstmuseum

and ran his fingers over the oiled flesh

of Christ in the tomb, a  

Thomas, fingers deep

in the warm, sticky

gouge of unbelief. 


Let me touch. I ached


but conscience reverence fear, and

the steady eyes of armed men

kept my hand by my side. 

Let me touch. I ached


to run my fingers

over the hand already skeletal,

the ribs a shuddering ripple,

blood dried in the sliced flesh,

a rotting, death-pale green,

black around the holes unseen

(as though it were all in vain) –

I ached


to know if it were all in vain.


We stood in the same room,

Dostoyevsky and I,

that room like a smooth, dark womb,

and stared into the eyes of

Christ in the tomb.


My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

to believe

Thomas groped

the pulsing, bloodied flesh

and Dostoyevsky

the canvas dried and cool –

to believe, 

to touch

I ached



The Body of the Dead Christ in the Tomb

Hans Holbein the Younger 


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